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What's the WB site etiquette on this? Another member posted an answer while I was writing that covered a great deal of what I was saying in my longer answer. I posted the answer, but I'm unsure if I'm about to get 40 downvotes for being a jerk or what.

Is it expected that I'll abandon my own answer and try to get the author of the other answer to cover the points I felt would be useful, or is it usual to maintain multiple overlapping answers to one question?

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  • $\begingroup$ How close in time are the posts? I think people understand "similar answers, timestamps 5 minutes apart". If you'd left it in your browser tab for a day before posting or something, that'd be different. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jul 7 '16 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ At least 8 minutes, less than 15? The ninjaing post is now an hour old so more precisely I can't tell. No one seems to be reacting negatively. $\endgroup$ – SudoSedWinifred Jul 7 '16 at 20:01
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I had this happen to me the other day - literally, yesterday. I was working on an answer to a new question, and boing! someone posted something quite similar to it. I almost decided not to post the answer, feeling that the effort would have been duplicated.

I decided to rewrite the answer. I started over in terms of writing, but I kept some of the same basic ideas. I went back and added more details, sources, and explanations. I ended up posting it about half an hour after the other user, but as of this writing, mine has more upvotes.

Why? It's likely pure chance; the difference is only 2-1. But I think that the reason mine got more votes - as has been the case sometimes in the past - is that I added a lot more detail, and gave an explanation that was a little more in-depth, though longer. Worldbuilding is great insofar as people don't just look at a question for a quick fix. They look because they're intrigued by the title, and then the question body, and hopefully the answers. This means that they'll likely stop and read a well-written answer, instead of skipping it because I was ninja'd by the fastest gun in the west.

The moral of the story? It's okay if your answer is similar to another person's. I encourage you to rewrite it. Nobody's going to downvote you because you wrote a similar answer, unless you wrote it the same way someone else did. However, I think people will upvote you if you take the time to make your answer better than the other(s).

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If your post comes to a similar conclusion as another post, but yours provides additional angles, details, or insight that’s relevant then I don’t see a problem with publishing it. There are many questions around StackExchange where I’ve been thankful that someone else posted a similar (or the same) answer but elaborated significantly.

In a circumstance where a substantial portion of your answer is the same as another I’ve also seen some users begin their answer with something like “I agree with SudoSedWinifred, but also want to add:”. This recognition usually happens if you answer significantly later than the original post, but could help to mitigate any feeling by you or voters that you’ve stolen someone's answer.

With Worldbuilding.SE in particular I feel like it’s very common to see overlapping answers. As long as each subsequent overlapping answer provides something unique and meaningful I haven’t typically seen them down voted.

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